Hives. Stomach pain. Vomiting. Lethargy. An anaphylactic reaction is terrifying. Maybe you kicked into gear and gave them the epinephrine shot. Perhaps you were like me in the beginning and took them straight to the ER, not sure if you had needed to give an epinephrine shot. Maybe it was the school telling you there had been an incident. Maybe it was at home.
Suddenly everything in you is on alert!
What no one tells you is that..
After you and your child have returned home from the hospital…
After everything calms down and you are left with time to think…
There is a whole tsunami of emotions that comes flooding in.
You will have feelings
Intense, Big, Overwhelming emotions that leave you raw and devastated. Grateful but devastated.
The guilt is immense. Whether you were there or not. Whether is was your mistake or not. We are the parents. We are the protectors of our child. How could we have let that happen? When they are hurt, we immediately feel responsible.
Now remember emotions have a purpose. Guilt tells us we have done something wrong, that we mustn’t do in the future. It can tell us this with an intensity. When the ER nurse told me I should have epi’ed prior to coming to the ER, I was still disoriented. But when the allergist gently but firmly said the same thing the next day, I was overwhelm with the guilt at not having given my son life saving medication at the first coughs and hives after ingestion. The truth is I had the luxury to learn from that situation. And the guilt was the punch in the stomach, that would always remind me.
So let the feelings run through you and dissipate. Don’t hold on to them but do feel them. Regardless of how it happened or what you did after, you now have the chance to learn from what happened. Let any guilt you feel, push to you integrate and be assertive with what you learned. Then, let the guilt go.
You are a strong food allergy warrior. Stand up tall.
The what ifs can be vivid, intrusive and constant after an anaphylactic reaction. You’re mind goes to all the possibilities. The other scenarios. The worst. That pit in your stomach can feel like it will never go away. Sometimes the experience is so intense it’s hard to catch your breath. Or maybe you find these thoughts are accompanied with tears and more tears. Let the tears flow. You have experienced a trauma. Your mind and your body is trying to take in what has happened.
Those first few days you may need to let your mind try to understand what happened. If thoughts come, let them. What you should not try to do is obsess over them. Turning them over and over in your mind, will only keep your mind in a heightened state of anxiety. Playing out horrible scenarios ad nauseum will not help you or your child. Let the thoughts come in, notice them, and let them go. Breathe. Breathe some more.
When something threatens the survival of our family, it activates the fear centers of our brain. We are wired for survival, as an individual and as a species. This process is automatic and sends our entire body into flight or flight survival mode. The emotions of fear tells us something is dangerous.
The heart quickening, hypervigilance, thoughts racing, the agitation…
In the aftermath of an anaphylactic reaction, your whole self is on overdrive to prevent another reaction. It takes time to feel in control again. It takes time to feel like you got this.
You have to process your reactions in the aftermath of child’s anaphylactic.
Moving Forward From Anaphylaxis
Calm your Body
Our breath is one of the quickest ways to calm our agitated body. Taking slow breaths allows us to communicate with our lower brain (our feeling brain) that we are ok and that any danger has past. Consider warm showers and other ways that will physically relax your body.
Tell your Story
Talking about what has happened with someone who cares can help calm any traumatic reaction you may be having. Simply telling your story can allow the mind (thinking brain) to regroup and come to terms with what happened. Research also suggests that writing about a traumatic event can help the mind process it. So call your best friend. Jump on those Facebook groups and connect with your tribe.
Finally, keep going. It will be scary at first. There may be things you need to change. You may decide that there are things that your family needs to do differently. But you have to remain committed to living life despite the fears. Be brave.
- Let yourself feel without judgment
- Get support
- Embrace and integrate what you learned
- Embrace your child
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Brave Minds Psychological Services helps children, teens and families overcome severe anxiety, stress, and painful experiences. We specialize in developing brave minded youth that can move forward despite fears and significant challenges.